Where Happiness Inspires Hope

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Even those of us who have been to Walt Disney World a bunch of times still have our favorite Walt Disney World vacation memories.  It may be the time that your husband proposed, or the time your baby had her first Mickey ice cream bar.  Maybe it was one of those vacations you took after a rough time at work or at home, and you just really enjoyed being able to get away from the worry and stress at home and relax as a family on vacation.

Now, imagine your rough time at home was your child being diagnosed with a life threatening illness.  Imagine the rough time included a prognosis so grim, you could barely get through a day, or even an hour, without crying.   Your days have been filled with trips to doctors and stays in hospitals, watching your child, sick with both illness and exhaustion, battle valiantly against a serious health crisis.  Even if you have good health insurance, there are overnight stays at hotels because you’ve had to go out of state and away from family and friends to seek medical treatments.  There are meals in hospital cafeterias, and babysitters to pay back home for watching your other children until Dad can pick them up after work.  Even if the stars aligned and things fell into place to take a vacation, there wouldn’t be money to spare to take one.

Unless….

This is where Give Kids the World steps in.  More than 120,000 families have walked through the doors of the villas at Give Kids the World, surrounded by love and comfort for a blissful week of vacation that money could never buy.  Instead of the focus being on medicine, it’s on magic, as children get to recapture a piece of childhood that has been ripped away by being sick.  Visits to theme parks, bed time tuck-ins by whimsical characters, swimming and laughter – and ice cream for breakfast if they want it – and all at absolutely no cost to these families.

Give Kids the World is all about making the most magical memories for families at a time when they most need smiles and happiness.  They bring Christmas to the children who may not have the luxury of waiting for December, and they give the gift of wonderful vacation memories to families who aren’t sure they will have the opportunity in the future to have this type of experience.

When you see the smiles on the faces – and the stars on the ceiling (each child who comes to the Village gets a star) – you know this is where happiness – and hope – can be found, even in the most desperate of times.  That’s why myself and a group of amazing and wonderful Disney Loving Moms join together through the spring and summer to raise money to send children to this wonderful place.

If you can find it in your heart to donate and help us bring families down to Orlando for some of their most incredible vacation memories ever, please just click this link http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/DisneyFansGKTW/disneyfansgivekidstheworldfundraisingpage

100% of your donation goes right to Give Kids the World so that another child can be immersed in the world of fantasy and fairytale, even if it’s just for a little while.  Give them a week where they can be kids, not cancer patients.

You have the power to make magic happen for these kids.  Help us to bring the happiness that inspires hope to these families that so desperately need it.

Disney Loving Moms on a Mission

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Three days.

In three days, you might spend $15 on coffee at Starbucks.

In three days, you might spend $6 in a vending machine at work on snacks.

In three days, you might spend $60 on take away dinners to save time cooking at home.

In the next three days, think of all the places you MIGHT spend money that you really don’t need to – happy hour drinks?  Movie tickets?  Fast food lunches?

In the next three days, in this country alone, 20 children will die from a childhood cancer.  This usually comes after countless visits to the doctor or hospital.  It comes following hour after heartbreaking hour of a mom or dad sitting by a bedside, watching a child battle for life.  It comes after every happiness is taken away and replaced by constant worry.

If you could take that Starbucks money and help bring a seriously ill child a smile, or a mom a wonderful memory, would you do it?  If you knew that the money you might spend in the next three days on a pizza could give a child Christmas this week, because he might not be here when Santa makes his annual trip, would you use it to spread some holiday spirit?  If you could bag lunch this week and have $15 extra dollars that you could send to give a dying child whatever he wanted for breakfast – even if it was ice cream – would it make the homemade sandwich taste much better?

There are only three days remaining in our annual fundraiser for Give Kids the World.  We are so close to our goal of $15,000, but we need your help.  It doesn’t matter whether you can spare $3, $30, or $300.  Whatever you have that might help bring pixie dust to these families during some of their darkest days are dollars well spent.

Make your donation at http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/DisneyFansGKTW/2012

With Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust, Many Things Are Possible

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Many years ago, when we lived in Orlando, I got a phone call from a friend in New Jersey.  She was coming to Orlando, all expenses paid, and was hoping to catch up with me.

How wicked awesome, I thought!  A fully paid trip to Orlando – theme park tickets, accommodations, airfare!  What do you have to do to score a vacation package like that?

I had not yet heard of Give Kids the World.  I knew, of course, that seriously ill children were often granted wishes to visit Walt Disney World, but I had no idea that such a place like the Give Kids the World Village existed.  When my Jersey friend finally did arrive, I learned that she and her family had been flown down to celebrate what may have been a final vacation with her granddaughter, who had leukemia.

I was overwhelmed by the information she shared about Give Kids the World Village.  I was bowled over by her description of the fairytale like atsmosphere and the amazing people who volunteered at the Village.  And I knew that somehow, I wanted to be a part of it all.

Throughout the years that we lived in Central Florida, I often visited the Give Kids the World website to browse their wish list, and Brighid and I would gather some things and deliver them to the Village.  It felt like something so small, but then in 2009, when I became a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, I felt like I had bonded with a group of people so amazing, so magical, so filled with pixie dust that they would understand my love and passion for the children at the Village.

We were small but mighty that first year.  We raised in the area of $1500, which we donated to be used in a memorial garden.  The day that we made our donation, we were fortunate enough to be granted a tour of the Village.  We visited the salon, where beautiful princesses are created.  We stopped by the ice cream parlor, where even for breakfast, ice cream is an option.  We saw the cozy cottages and the awesome playgrounds.  There was nothing here that would make anyone think this was a place for sick kids; it was a place for kids – with everything a child could dream that would transport them away – even for just a short time – from the daily routine of doctors, nurses, needles, and medicines.

The mantle has passed on, and my Mom friends are still doing all they can not only to raise money for this wonderful organization, but to bring attention to the incredible work they do.  We want you, in some small way, to feel like we felt when we toured the Village – where we were not only impacted by how happy a place they have made it, but where we were overcome with sadness in seeing the number of stars that blaze a trail in the skyin one of the buildings in memory of every child that has passed through the Village.  We want you to know how many of us were reduced to tears as we stood awkwardly silent in the chapel, where so many Moms and Dads stood before us, praying for the lives of their precious children; and thanking God and the Village for the chance to be a normal family – if only for a week. 

I have personally known children who have visited the Village through the years.  Some are grown now, possessing just a fading memory of a childhood where innocence was replaced with illness.  Some will remain forever children, as they were taken Home to bloom in the gardens of Heaven. 

But all of them – and their families – will have treasured memories of the magic, the memories, and the pixie dust that they shared in one incredible week at this amazing place.

We would love it if you joined us in supporting the magic and the memories created by Give Kids the World.  Please consider “Liking” our Facebook page, and share it with your friends, so that even more people become aware of the Village and the amazing work they do.  Visit the page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/DisneyFansGKTW and click “LIKE” at the top!

And if you can, please consider making a donation to the Village through the webpage my friends have established.  With faith, trust, and pixie dust, many things are possible.  There’s a smile to be had with every dollar that is donated.  There is nothing more magical than that! http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/DisneyFansGKTW/reunion

Give Kids the World – Where Magic Lives

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In 2009, when I first joined the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, I thought it was an awesome opportunity to raise awareness for an organization that I have always thought was one of the most amazing on the planet.  Can you imagine this – you are the parents of a very sick child, and every day of your life is filled with doctors, nurses, needles, medicine, schedules, treatments.  There is no playing outside, soaking up sunshine, relaxing, smiling.

Our First Giant Check!

 

 

Then someone calls you and tells you that your family will be receiving an all expenses paid trip for a week at the Most Magical Place on Earth.  I know – you think it’s Disney World – but it’s not.  It’s Give Kids the World.  Families relax in fabulous accommodations; are provided with theme park tickets to places like Disney, Sea World, and Universal; and treated to a week full of smiles, laughing, and playing – all those things kids are supposed to be doing!

 

 

Each star represents the wish of a seriously ill child

You know now why Give Kids the World is the charity that the Moms and I chose to support.  As moms, how could we NOT be a part of the daily sprinkling of pixie dust that takes place at Give Kids the World?

For the third year, my amazing Disney loving Mom friends are raising money to support GKTW.  Please take a minute to Like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and DONATE!

http://www.facebook.com/DisneyFansGKTW

Disney Moms Panel Reunion Expedition Everest 5K Part Two – Give Kids the World

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A few months ago, the moms on the panel began talking about a way to give something back for the wonderful cosmic gift of the opportunity to be on the Moms Panel.  My friend Dolores had a granddaughter who nearly died from leukemia, but during her illness, her family was given the opportunity to stay at Give Kids the World in Kissimmee.
 The Village houses the families of seriously ill children who make a wish to visit the Orlando area and the attractions, such as Walt Disney World.  We decided we wanted to make GKTW our pet project, so we began raising money for the organization.

The money poured in from the moms all over the globe.  At first, I had hoped to raise maybe $500; but with the generosity of the Moms, $1000 became a realistic goal.  When it was said and done, we donated $1550 to the Village! 
We had the great fortune to meet Pam Landwirth, the president of the Village, who gave us some background and information on this absolutely remarkable place.  We could have listened to her talk for hours on the experiences of families here at Give Kids the World, and when she speaks, you hear in her voice not only her extensive Disney background, but her love for the Village and the families.  She seemed genuinely touched by the donation, and I hope we can do her proud by continuing to be ambassadors for the Village through our blogs, Twitter, and our every day lives.
The sites that you will see here will fill you with wonder and amazement.  While the potential for a visit to the Village to be filled with sadness and pity is great, you will find none of that, anywhere, no matter how hard you look.  Every i has been dotted and every t crossed in making sure the children and their families have an experience that Tinkerbell herself couldn’t have sprinkled more pixie dust over.  Ice cream for breakfast? No problem.  Horseback riding?  Whenever you’re ready.  Christmas every week?  Done.  It simply would not be possible for a family to leave here not feeling renewed, refreshed, and ready to resume the battle against devastating medical illnesses. 
I haven’t any room for sarcastic wit in this blog post.  Just know that each year, when you are figuring out your charity budget for the coming year, you must put Give Kids the World at the top of your list.  Here are just a few of the pictures from our visit.
   
   
So, while everything and everyone here is so upbeat and positive, I admit that the visit was not without it’s moments of sadness.  Aside from a few brief tears, I had managed to hold it together fairly well, until we got towards the second portion of our tour of the Village.
We went into one building, and everywhere you looked, there were stars in the sky.  Our tour guide talked to us about this fabulous thing, where each child that comes to the Village puts his or her name on a star, and in a process that could have easily been thought up by the Disney folks, a magical fairy comes and grabs the star, and plants it up in the sky for each child.  I was so impressed by the whole Star Fairy video, the shaking box, the whole photo thing, that I was taken completely off guard when I looked up at the stars surrounding me.
 
It’s not that I didn’t know they were there from the time I walked in, the reality of their existence finally hit me after watching the adorable Star Fairy ceremony.  I gazed up toward the stars, making out names like Matthew, Sarah, Justin, Max – there were 70,000 stars on the ceiling, and as I thought to myself that among the 70,000 children, many didn’t live to see another Christmas or birthday, the tears just began pouring down.  I nearly felt as though I might have to remove myself from the tour, as I was completely overcome by the devastation these families must have felt upon learning of their child’s life threatening illness. 
And in the moment that it seemed I might not be able to take another breath, standing their under the gleaming stars, we were introduced to a volunteer couple responsible not only for putting the stars in the sky, but for helping the children with the Build a Pillow machine.  The moment of overwhelming sadness is washed away by the bubbles pouring out of the machine.
In a matter of only a few seconds, this team of volunteers cleansed the room of the feelings of desperate sadness and replaced them with the lightness of bubbles.  I can’t adequately describe for you the happiness that happens here.
Another of the buildings we went into that touched me beyond words was the chapel.  The chapel was built by request of the many families who have visited the village, and the building is flooded with light, decorated with stained glass representations of the four seasons, and bursting with love and tranquil spirit.  There are journals here for families to log their feelings and emotions, or just to leave messages for those who may travel the same road behind them.  The chapel was a powerful place.

Our visit to the Village was just about over, but the memories of the tour will remain with me forever.  I am hoping to go back in the spring for a weekend to work some volunteer shifts, and I plan to do what I can to continue to raise funds for and awareness of this amazing place.  It seems that every smile a child shares during his or her time there lingers to create an umbrella of warmth and happiness for the families that come after.  As much as I love Disney World, I think Give Kids the World might truly be the happiest place on earth.

Please visit their website at www.gktw.org to see how you can help support the continuing efforts of this incredible place.